March 1, 2017

Get Out Review

Wait a minute... Trump won?!

Popular comic Jordan Peele, the shorter half of the excellent “Key & Peele” duo, conjures the scary, satirical spirit of the late, great Ira Levin with his racially charged take on The Stepford Wives

Peele sets the film’s tone—ominous with a light touch of laughter—from the opening kidnapping of a young black man from the streets of what appears to be an affluent white suburb. Then it gets really scary, as a young, interracial couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya, from the terrific “Black Mirror” episode “Fifteen Million Merits”) and Rose (Allison Williams, adhering pretty closely to her whole Marnie shtick from “Girls”), prepare to visit her hyper-liberal but very WASPy parents, Dean and Missy Armitage (Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener). 

After a portentous incident on the drive up, Chris and Rose arrive at her parents’ home, where things get really weird. The Armitages’ hired help are black, of course, but they also do not seem to be acting quite right. Georgina (Betty Gabriel) constantly has a beatific smile plastered on her face, and Walter (Marcus Henderson) has an odd fitness routine, running full speed across the yard in the middle of the night. Chris does his best to write off the weirdness as rich white people being rich and white, but the arrival of Rose’s hyper-aggressive, poorly facial-haired brother, Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), completely converts the Armitage parents’ subtle, covert racism into the rather more overt kind.

Oh, and Missy is a therapist who specializes in using hypnosis to break bad habits, which she uses on her daughter’s unsuspecting, smoking beau. And all this happens before more rich, old white people show up for a random yearly party that only seemed to be missing Minnie and Roman Castevet. A cameo by Katharine Ross or Paula Prentiss would have been icing on this Levin-loving cake.

Any more details would ruin the surprises Peele has in store for viewers, but know they are unpredictable and do not disappoint. Get Out has all the twisty reveals of an M. Night Shyamalan flick without that filmmaker’s incredibly cumbersome baggage. He nails the horror/satire balance in all the ways it was lacking in Frank Oz’s mishandled Stepford Wives remake. Get Out goes from merely awkward to genuinely uncomfortable to objectively scary, all without losing its sense of humor, thanks to Chris’ NSA pal, Rod (Lil Rel Howery). 

I’m a sucker for Levin’s terrifying Stepford premise; an entire subgenre could be devoted to it. Turning wives into robots certainly captured the era of the original, and Peele’s contemporary take is just as perfectly wacky and chilling. Though still young, 2017 has been dubbed the Year of Horror, thanks to several uninspiring but successful efforts. With Get Out, the genre finally has its showpiece.